Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 06/01/2011 Ten-year-old Zelly Fried has recently moved to Vermont from Brooklyn and longs for a dog. Her eccentric grandfather, Ace, develops the idea of a practice dog (in the form of an orange-juice container) and challenges Zelly to walk, feed, and clean it everyday to show her parents that she is responsible enough for the real thing. Zelly’s desire for a dog collides head-on with her desire not to stick out, and her attitude toward the practice dog (dubbed O.J.) and her combative relationship with Ace are complicated by her raw grief following the recent death of her grandmother. Zelly is a sympathetic, believably flawed character. The fact that she has as much to teach Ace as he has to teach her is just one satisfying element of this funny, often wise novel, which touches on issues of anti-Semitism and middle-school malice and includes a glossary of Yiddish words used throughout the text. In the end, Zelly’s triumph isn’t the dog she eventually gains, but the steps she takes to reach him. - Copyright 2011 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2011 Ten-year-old Zelly wants a dog more than anything, so her grandfather, Ace, creates a “practice dog” made out of an orange-juice carton that Zelly must feed, walk, and clean up after, so that Zelly can prove to her parents that she’d be a responsible pet owner. Zelly is wholly unenthused by this ridiculous proposition, particularly because she has just begun caring what people, particularly peers, think about her, but desperation forces her to agree to Ace’s proposal. The result is a wholly engaging novel about intergenerational family dynamics featuring two extremely likable and relatable characters. Ace is a character of sitcom proportions; his speech, printed in all caps as an indicator of his constant volume, is heavily sprinkled with Yiddish expletives and demanding turns of phrase. Yet he also has a softer side, which Zelly, who was much closer to her recently deceased grandmother, is just learning to see. In addition to the dog storyline, Zelly is developing a friendship with a new boy in town, Jeremy Fagel, who helps her both with her confidence and her handling of family situations, and this friendship shows readers a different side of Zelly as well. The believable resolution finds all members of Zelly’s family a little better off than they were in the beginning, particularly Zelly, who is all too happy to retire O.J. to a place of honor on her top shelf upon the arrival of her brand-new pup. HM - Copyright 2011 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 09/01/2011 Gr 4–6—Zelda Fried's grandfather, Ace, comes up with the perfect plan to help convince her parents to get her the dog she so desperately wants: the 10-year-old will take care of a "practice dog" (actually an old orange juice jug), including feeding, walking, and cleaning up after it, until they give in. This is totally embarrassing, and to make matters worse, although Zelly moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Vermont a while ago, she still feels like the new kid in town. Her only friend will be spending the summer at camp, leaving her all alone to deal with her annoying little brother and the neighborhood bullies (who no doubt will have a lot to say about her plastic companion). By the end of the summer, she has made another friend, learned to stand up for herself, and begun to appreciate her "pet." Despite the novel's forced secondary story line about Zelly's Jewish family fitting in with the new neighborhood and Ace's unfortunate trip to the hospital near the end of the book, readers will enjoy the main character's liveliness and resilience.—Amanda Moss Struckmeyer, Middleton Public Library, WI - Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.